Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, secular worker-priests of the Belgian cinema, emerge once more from their lower depths. In describing one of their movies, you describe them all. Their characters are the victims of soggy street-cart food and social disintegration—no God, no family or community infrastructure, no moral compass. Here, it's Lorna (Arta Dobroshi), an Albanian living with a Belgian junkie, Claudy (Jérémie Renier). Spouse or roommate? The details casually drop into place. They're married only as a business arrangement: Claudy got his dope money; Lorna got Belgian citizenship, which she's scheduled to transmit through remarriage to another incoming immigrant, all arranged by phlegmatic lowlife mobster Fabio (Fabrizio Rongione). This being a Dardenne film, the protagonist is stashing money to buy a modest dream of "normal life"—Lorna wants to open a snack shop with her boyfriend. This being a Dardenne film, Lorna's a self-preserving solipsist, blind to any harm she does getting hers, which includes having passively agreed to Fabio's plan: murder–O.D. Claudy to expedite her divorce and next quick-cash wedding. In a sense, the Dardennes make economic horror movies, starring the dregs of the working class. Claims of something higher don't read; the Dardennes challenge their beleaguered subjects, not themselves and not their audience. When Lorna and her ilk confront the "moral conundrums" of bare-subsistence life, no alternative answer seems viable. This leaves the viewer to wait (impatiently, in this case) for the constipated soul to arrive at inevitable relief.
Dobroshi endures her arrangement.
Runs at Varsity, Fri., Aug. 28–Thurs., Sept. 3. Rated R. 105 minutes.